Peter and the Starcatcher on Broadway
High Camp for Everyone
By: Susan Hall - 09/30/2012
Peter and the Starcatcher
By Rick Elice
Based on the novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
Adam Chanler-Berat, Celia Keenan-Bolger, Matthew Saldivar, Teddy Bergman, Arnie Burton, Matt D’Amico, Kevin Del Aguila, Carson Elrod, Greg Hildreth, Rick Holmes, Isaiah Johnson, Eric Petersen.
Directed by Roger Rees and Alex Timbers
Scene Design by Donayle Werle
Costume Design by Paloma Young
Lighting Design by Jeff Croiter
Sound Design by Darron L. West
Music by Wayne Barker
Movement by Steven Hoggett
Peter and the Starcatcher
Brooks Atkinson Theater
Peter and the Star Catcher is a prequel to Peter Pan and won five richly deserved Tony’s this season. If you want to see what J. M. Barrie was dreaming about before he put pen to paper to write Peter Pan, go to this wonderful show. Adam Chanler-Berat is a yearning and yet happy Peter. Once he gets a last name, he is headed for Number 14 on a nameless Lane in Bloomsbury. Even if you don't enjoy origin stories, you will be caught up by starcatchers.
Near the top of the stage frame a mermaid lounges, forecasting many others we will meet during the performance. My tween companion, Maddie, pointed out a fat pineapple, looking to all the audience like a pillow braided with gold chord. When one of the lost boys picks up a pineapple on the beach, he is famished and tries to eat it whole. Twice. His mouth contorts, filled with prickles. Only as the play wraps up does the pineapple open to offer up its delicious treasures. Not so the show which from its start delights.
At first you wonder at all the mustachioed tweens throughout the theater. But when Matthew Saldivar appears on stage, it is clear that Black Stache is sooo attractive. Everyone who has not donned a mustache wants one like his. Black Stache’s assistant Smee is confused about his role as assistant. Kevin Del Aguila captures the ambivalence of being assistant-in-chief to a pirate. He just can’t get it right for the devil.
Arnie Burton as Mrs. Bumbrake is the perfect cross-dressed nanny for the ages. Not wicked like the witch in Hansel and Gretel, but not Mary-Poppins-attentive to her/his charge either. Oh, said Maddie, I wish we had babysitters like him. Every girls dream.
Isaiah Johnson terrifies as Captain Scott; Eric Petersen stepped into the role of Ted with style.
Stage left a musician performs on an electronic keyboard. And stage right, in a box, percussion instruments provide the right musical aura to suggest ocean.
The big arc of this story starts with the switching of a trunk full of Queen Victora's stardust for a trunk full of common sand. Self-deputized for the rescue, the charming Celia Keenan-Bolger as Molly, the only girl in the cast, succeeds beyond her wildest dream to become a starcatcher.
Most of the first act is spent battling over the trunk destined for the Queen. It must contain treasure, the pirates speculate. And it does. But not the kind of treasure evil pirates can understand.
On the deck of the Neverland, orphans are crew. On the other ship, the Wasp, is Molly's father, Lord Aster played by Rick Holmes who certainly knows how to salute the Queen at every opportunity. He has been captured by the mustachioed pirate Black Stache.
Proto feminist Molly, a dutiful and loving daughter, determines to rescue Dad. The rough seas of her perilous journey are represented by the figures moving to and fro, or more aptly, port and starboard. This delightful abstraction caught Maddie's attention as she rocked to its rhythms in her seat.
The Neverland crew of the soon-to-be-lost boys crashes as does the Wasp. Act II opens with mermaids singing on a deserted island. Maddie gasped and then giggled as the mermaids, all except one male, sang and danced. As Molly comes forward, we are told that the nautical translation of her name is "squid poop." Such a captivating translation that kids quickly pick it up and toss it around.
Peter and the Starcatcher is a high concept Peter Pan prequel. Both light-handed and limp-wristed, only age-appropriate audience will grasp all its nuances. For kids, it is a perfect, kooky afternoon at the theater. The show goes "Will Ferrell" in a delightful way. It rocks to and fro, veering from high camp to tawdry but full of bawdy jokes, not quite as blatant as Sasha Baron Cohen. Adults may be reminded of the Ballet Trockadero.
The backstory of Hook’s missing hand is told, accompanied by dancing yellow rubber gloves. Peter is an orphan ambivalent about growing up. He finally gets a last name, which of course is Pan. He will be a boy for a long as it takes J. M. Barrie to catch up. We know what happens then. But the tweens hope that even if he stays a boy forever, he will grow a mustache, bushy like Black Stache's and their own. Terrific theater for fans of all ages.